Personal Finance

9 Things to Never Do While Travelling Internationally

Whether one is a seasoned veteran of overseas trips or a wide-eyed newbie venturing beyond India for the first time, don't make these 9 mistakes while travelling abroad.

1. Keep Your Passport on Your Person

When travelling internationally, it's always important to have a form of identification and proof that one is legally allowed to be in the country, just in case one encounters the local authorities. But, carrying one's passport around is unwise it case it gets lost. Although this would not be disastrous since your consulate can provide a replacement, it would waste precious vacation time and create stress. As an alternative, carry around photocopies or mobile phone pictures of the important pages from your passport and leave the physical document in your hotel room's lockbox.

2. Hitchhike

The desire to be more adventurous isn't unusual on a vacation to an exotic destination. But, think twice about sticking a thumb out to catch a ride while backpacking through a country. It's simply quite risky from a safety perspective to hitchhike even in one's own country. In a foreign country, one could be even more of a target as a foreign tourist with potentially no local ties and little knowledge of the local customs or geography. This especially applies to those travelling alone.

3. Flaunt Your Wealth

This recommendation doesn't just apply to the wealthy. Just by nature of being a tourist, one is already viewed as an easy target by local pickpockets, so it's wise to not stick out more than you already do. For example, avoid wearing flashy or expensive jewellery and be discreet when taking cash out of your wallet. Also, try to dress down when possible.

4. Get into Arguments with Locals, Especially in Bars!

When travelling, be aware of the possibility that some topics or opinions that are commonplace at home may be quite controversial in a foreign country. So, it's wise to refrain from engaging locals in arguments, even if it seems like a minor issue. You may not understand how law enforcement works in other countries, so it's best not to put yourself in a situation where trouble could arise. This advice is might be most important when you're around people whose inhibitions may have been lowered, such as at a bar where people are intoxicated. The last thing you want to happen is an argument turning into a brawl. As a guest in others' country, take extra care to respect local customs and be cognizant of taboos. When in doubt, just hold your tongue!

5. Drink the Tap Water

The tap water isn't safe to drink in India, and sticking to bottled or filtered water in most other countries is best. The worst way to spend an entire vacation is in your hotel room recuperating from a waterborne illness. That said, here's a quick glance at where it's typically safe to drink tap water versus places where it isn't:

This image shows countries where tap water is generally safe vs. unsafe

6. Eat Near Major Tourist Attractions

To get the best quality local cuisine for your money, avoid restaurants near major tourist attractions. These tourist traps are designed to attract and accommodate the maximum number of tourists who don't feel like straying from the beaten path in an unfamiliar place. Not only do they tend to be overpriced, they rarely feature the best quality food the host country has to offer. For foodies and value-seekers, take some time before your trip to find out where locals go for the most authentic dishes. This can be well worth the time and effort, especially since you'll likely ditch the biggest crowds.

7. Use Cash Instead of Credit Cards

Although it's wise to carry some cash on hand no matter where you are, there are excellent rewards to be had by paying for as many transactions abroad with a credit card as possible, even after foreign currency transaction fees. It's possible to get the most bang for your buck using a credit card versus forex or debit cards, but make sure you understand the terms and fees of your specific cards. Above all, avoid physical money changers as much as possible, as they notoriously have the worst currency exchange rates, especially at airports.

8. Skip Travel Insurance

In the era of crowdfunding, once in a while you can see people popping up on social media begging friends and family to pitch in to help cover an unforeseen expense they can't afford - such as outrageous medical expenses or an emergency flight home after something goes wrong. This is especially true for those planning on engaging in possibly dangerous sporting activities like scuba diving or rock climbing. There's always some risk (even if small) of an accident happening during a trip. The hundreds of rupees you'll pay for protection is worth the peace of mind knowing there won't be serious financial consequences in a worst-case scenario.

9. Skip Vaccinations

Getting immunized for any infectious diseases present in your travel destination is very important. Websites like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control lists which vaccinations are recommended by country, or you can check with your personal physician. Depending on your health insurance plan, vaccinations may appear expensive if the risk of contracting a disease is low, especially if you're taking a relatively short trip. But, should you try to put a price on your health? You'll be grateful for getting vaccinated if you encounter a region with malaria, yellow fever or other serious diseases.

Notably, travel insurers often require that you take necessary and sensible precautions before and during your trip to avoid unnecessary risks. If vaccinations are advisable for the country to which you are travelling, your insurer could find you negligent if you get infected and refuse to cover your medical costs.

Dan Grossman

Dan is a Senior Research Analyst at ValueChampion India, focusing on credit cards. He holds a B.S. in Mathematics & Economics from the University of Michigan, and previously worked in the financial services industry at Capital One and Moelis & Company.